PDP cautions CJN against subverting election petition panel

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The House of Representatives caucus of the People Democratic Party (PDP) has cautioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Tanko, against subverting the integrity of the judiciary on the selection of Supreme Court Justices ahead of the hearing of the presidential election appeal panel.

This was disclosed in a statement jointly signed by the PDP Caucus Leader, Kingsley Chinda, his deputy Chukwuma Onyema; Caucus Whip, Umar Barde, and his deputy, Muraina Ajibola. The PDP House caucus said the selection of Justices to hear the appeal of the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, must be in accordance with the conventional practice of admitting only the first seven most senior Justices of the Supreme Court.

The caucus insisted that the list must not go outside the following: ‘The CJN, Tanko; Justice Rhodes-Vivour, Justice Mary Odili, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice Musa Muhammad and Justice Kumai Akaahs. The House PDP member stated categorically that the practice of selecting Justices to hear the appeal is expected to precede the hearing, going by age-long convention.

According to the caucus, “What isn’t conventional is the present attempt to influence Chief Justice Ibrahim Tanko, going by reports in the media, to subvert the age-long and time-tested practice, precedent and convention of selecting the most senior Justices of the Supreme Court to hear the presidential election appeal. Chief Justices of Nigeria, through time, have never in the selection of the Supreme Court‘s Election Petition Appeal Panel surrendered to the phony dictates of the ruling parties. We are proud to state here that never in our great party’s time in power did it or its personages dictate selection of panel members to Chief Justices, never!”

The PDP caucus recalled that in 2008 when President Muhammadu Buhari was defeated by late President Umaru Yar’Adua, and the former appealed the decision of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, the then CJN, Legbo Kutigi, empaneled Justices Katsina-Alu, Aloma Mukhtar, Dahim Musdapha, Walter Onnoghen, George Oguntade and Niki Tobi to hear the appeal that year.

The caucus added that he was never dictated to nor was any attempt made by the PDP to influence Kutigi who stuck to a conventional practice that consistently secured the seal of approval of past Chief Justices-Fatai Williams 1979; George Sowewimo 1983, and Muhammad Uwais 2003. The House members added that former CJN Katsina-Alu also followed Kutigi’s steps in 2011 and kept to the age-long conventional practice. They stressed that if there is any arm of government that regards precedents and practices as almost sacrosanct, it is the judiciary.

The PDP lawmakers said the Nigerian judiciary cannot reverse that internationally accepted practice of “starre decisis” just to please the All Progressives Congress (APC) government and serve the interest of a selected individual or group. The caucus noted that selecting the Supreme Court panel “isn’t about witch-pricking Justices who suck blood out of justice, isn’t about going outside the order of seniority to select Justices.”

The PDP House caucus stressed that it is about demonstrating and holding firm to the constitutional powers of the Supreme Court to conduct its own affairs and not succumb to pervasive power and corrosive external influences to sidestep precedents and “convention to provide legitimacy to the ruling party whose stock-in-trade is to ridicule the judiciary.” It said: “CJN Tanko must stick to precedents and conventions to preserve the integrity of the courts as the last hope of the common man and citizens of our great country.”